NEWSLETTER – April 2012
Robin Schiller, President
Allen Mendelsohn, Dorith Toledano and Larry Markowitz, Editor(s)
Honorable Judges, Members and Friends,
The holiday of Passover is a time to remember the past but also to think about our future and our future is in the hands of our newest members.
On April 19, 2012, we will be hosting our Annual Students Dinner. Our guest speaker will be Me Pierre Bienvenu of Norton Rose Canada LLP. Me Bienvenu will be discussing the Lola case and its potential impact on common law spouses in Quebec. There will also be a special networking program for students during our cocktail hour.
We shall continue our policy of providing a discount for early registrations. We encourage you all to reserve your place before April 12, 2012.
The evening has been accredited for CLE with the Barreau. CLE credits are only available for paid-up members. The dinner invitation and membership application are available through our website and we encourage you to pay and reserve online.
Many thanks to our generous sponsor Norton Rose Canada LLP.
Lastly, I want to make you aware of a very special event taking place on April 21, 2012 when a great friend of the Society, the Honourable Mr. Justice Morris Fish will be speaking at the Shaare Zion Congregation. Additional details about the event can also be found further along in this newsletter.
We encourage you all to join us on April 19th for what promises to be an enlightening evening and to show your support for our future colleagues and new members.
Yours very truly,
Robin Schiller, President
Students Dinner – Special Invitation to Students and Stagiaires
We would like to extend a special invitation to students and stagiaires for our upcoming Students Dinner, being held next Thursday, April 19th.
Our guest speaker will be Me Pierre Bienvenu, from Norton Rose Canada LLP. Me Bienvenu will be discussing the Lola case and its potential impact on common law spouses in Quebec. This promises to be an exciting and interesting evening, and as always, a wonderful opportunity to network with our members.
There will also be a special networking program during our cocktail hour where you will have the chance to meet lawyers from a wide variety of practices.
In keeping with our tradition, bar school students and stagiaires are invited to this event as guests of the Society, at no cost, so that we can introduce you to the Society and tell you more about our history and raison d’etre. If you are a bar student or stagiaire and would like to register, please confirm your attendance by sending an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
In addition, for the first time, we are offering law school students the possibility to attend this dinner at a special rate. If you fall into this category, you can register for the dinner by contacting Jennifer Gewurz at email@example.com.
We encourage you all to join us for what promises to be an enlightening and enjoyable evening.
Everything you have ever wanted to know, but were afraid to ask, about the Court of Quebec
Which court plays a significant role in the administration of justice in Quebec, but remains largely unknown?
Answer: The Court of Quebec!
As we learned on March 22nd, when the Society was privileged to have as its guests three eminent justices of the Court of Quebec: Chief Justice Élizabeth Corte and Judges Suzanne Handman and Lori Weitzman, the Court of Québec is a court of first instance that has jurisdiction in civil, criminal and penal matters, as well as in matters relating to young persons. It also has jurisdiction over administrative matters and is designated as the appeals court under some 30 administrative laws, including access to information legislation and rental board matters.
The Court of Quebec often gets less attention in the annals of legal reporting than do the Superior Court, the Court of Appeal and, of course, the Supreme Court, but the Court of Quebec is actually where a significant proportion of disputes between Quebecers are adjudicated.
Chief Justice Corte began the presentation by explaining that the Court of Quebec has some 270 provincially-named judges sitting in 10 administrative regions. Those who sit in Montreal tend to specialize (e.g. Judge Weitzman, a former crown prosecutor, focuses on criminal cases), while those “en région” tend to be generalists.
Following Judge Corte’s introductory remarks, Judge Handman regaled us with tales of the novel ways in which the non-lawyers appearing in her courtroom have addressed her over the years. These honorifics have included ‘Your Majesty”, “Sweetie” and “Your Royal Highness”!
On a more serious note, Judge Handman described the highly charged emotional nature of much of what goes on in her courtroom. Hearings are often punctuated by tears and shouting. That said, Judge Handman has also had occasion to preside over some strange cases that would not be out of place on “The People’s Court”, such as the “Case of the dog that died from eating spaghetti”!
Small Claims Court
Small Claims Court, one of the better-known branches of the Court among the general public, and where lawyers generally cannot appear, is where civil disputes up to $7,000 are heard. This threshold amount will soon be increased to $12,000 and eventually to $15,000, which will presumably further increase the workload of the Small Claims Court.
Many Small Claims cases fall under the Consumer Protection Act and often deal with latent defects.
Judge Handman offered some practical advice. For instance, when preparing a pleading for a client who will appear in Small Claims Court, lawyers should ensure that the client signs and not the lawyer. Another very practical piece of advice was that lawyers should ensure that a client who is set to appear in Small Claims Court has all the requisite documents with them, since their lawyers won’t be in court with them!
The Court of Quebec offers a mediation service as well. The parties must voluntarily submit to mediation. A judge of the Court acts as mediator. Mediation is best when legal fees would be out of proportion to the sum in dispute and where no important legal principle is at issue. A judge acting as mediator can order a wider range of solutions to a dispute than in the context of regular litigation – for example, a mediator may order that one party apologize to the other.
Judges of the Court of Quebec are empowered to compel an individual to undergo a psychiatric assessment and can also order them confined to a psychiatric institution. It is not unusual for a judge to hear 15 such cases in rapid succession during the same morning.
Highway Safety Code
The Court of Quebec is responsible for meting out justice under the Highway Safety Code, including ordering the release of automobiles from seizure following unpaid parking tickets or following a conviction for driving under the influence. The Court grants applications for restricted licenses, such as when the owner of a seized vehicle needs that vehicle for the purpose of their work.
“It’s amazing how many people work seven days a week and are on-call 24 hours a day!” joked Judge Handman. The Court hears all sorts of excuses for unpaid tickets – even the proverbial “the dog ate it”!
Criminal and Penal Division
Judge Weitzman, who was a crown prosecutor prior to her nomination to the bench, provided the audience with an overview of the Court’s Criminal and Penal Division. Basically, the Court of Quebec deals with all criminal matters short of murder. Hearings can relate to bail, declaring someone a dangerous offender, driving offences, police powers (including allegations of racial profiling) and even matters of treason (aka “alarming Her Majesty”).
In addition to weighing fundamental principles of justice, judges of the Criminal and Penal Division are confronted on a daily basis with the drama of human psychology. For example, Judge Weitzman recounted an emotional episode where the mother of a young man who had just been convicted asked the Court’s permission to hug her son.
Victims of crime often show great fortitude in telling the stories of their victimization in a matter-of-fact way. From the bench, Judge Weitzman sees human drama play out before her on a daily basis: She observes interactions between the accused and their families, between victims of crime and those entrusted by the system with supporting them, and between the accused and their lawyers. Many tears are shed within these contexts. At the same time, surprising things happen every day as these dramas play out – both legally and psychologically.
At the end of the day, Judge Weitzman reminded us, a judge’s job is to do their best to see that justice is served.
In her concluding remarks, Chief Justice Corte reminded the assembled jurists that judges tend to prefer dealing with lawyers who are honest and well-prepared – and whom the judges can trust. With these words of wisdom, a very informative session was concluded.
Our guest speakers were thanked by Society First Vice-President and Programme Chair Mara Greenstone.
Declaring your Lord Reading Law Society CLE Credits with the Barreau du Québec
If you have not yet declared your CLE credits with the Barreau, or if you are having difficulty doing so, the following instructions may be helpful.
When you fill out your personalized summary of CLE hours attended, click on “Ajouter une activité de formation“, then enter the number 10004319, Lord Reading Law Society’s “dispensateur” number in the search box. The next window will say “Formations exclusivement réservées aux participants invités, Dispensée par «Lord Reading Law Society»” and you should then select the total number of declared hours, select the “Participant” option (unless you were a speaker), and click the “ajouter” button. Note that it doesn’t matter which events you attended, the only thing you have to select is the total hours from Lord Reading, as long as those hours took place during the two-year compliance period (April 1, 2011 through March 31, 2013).
Justice Morris Fish to speak at the Shaare Zion
The Shaare Zion Synagogue would like to extend a special invitation to members of the Lord Reading Law Society to hear The Honourable Mr. Justice Morris Fish speak on April 21, 2012. Justice Fish’s talk is entitled “Protecting Canadians – The Supreme Court and Justice for All”. For full details of the event, please visit the Shaare Zion’s website.
Student Essay Competition – Looking for Volunteer Judges
As part of its ongoing efforts to interest and excite future members of the Society, we have planned an exciting new initiative, a law student essay competition. The winner would be acknowledged at next year’s Student Dinner. We are looking for volunteers from the membership to help judge the competition. If you are interested, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
News from the Mishpuchah
- To Society Past-President Ian M. Solloway, who has been re-elected to a 4th consecutive term as Chair of the English–Speaking Section of the Bar of Montreal (2012-2013)
- To Society Board member Elliot Lifson for his appointment to Export Development Canada’s Board of Directors